A lot of vegan and non vegan ladies have asked me about iron deficiency on a vegan diet.
My best tips are:
1. Eat seasonally which means that you will be buying different seasonal produce. When you do that your diet will change from month to month and all the varieties of fruits and veggies will naturally supply you with the different nutrients your body needs. Nature is wise! All we need to do is follow her lead!
2. Optimize your digestion by eating clean foods that are easy to digest. A good digestion will lead to optimal assimilation! Your body when treated right is wise just like its mother Nature 🙂 so under the right conditions your body will do an excellent job in optimally extracting the nutrients it needs from your diet. Our food is a complex subject. A nutrient is not just a nutrient – every vegetable contains a complex combination of phytonutrients most of which have not been discovered by science yet so our job is to eat whole foods, seasonal varieties of produce and optimize our digestion. Our body will know how to handle the rest.
3. Consider periodic detoxes. After a detox your skin will glow and your energy will be through the roof due to the healing that took place during the detox. Your digestion will be far better after a detox and you may even learn that you are intolerant to certain foods you used to love once you try to re-introduce them into your diet. Plus you will have true cravings vs food addictions that feel like a valid craving.
Here is a sample menu plan for one day that will supply you with a plant source of iron and all the other nutrients you need. Women of menstruating age need around 15 mg a day.
Upon awakening- Lemon water, followed by warm tea or almond latte. A glass of 1 tsp of spirulina dissolved in with water can start you off with a high nutrient dense morning drink. Chia water is another excellent choice.
Breakfast: One whole big Melon or 3-4 Oranges and some other seasonal fruits such as persimmons, berries, apples, dates. (yes, I urge you to love your big fruit portions. Trust me- this will do wonders for your health and vitality. Just do it now and you will thank me later.)
or 3 Oranges and some other seasonal fruits. For an extra nutrients boost you can add a tbsp of blackstrap molasses to your apples.
I personally practice a form of intermittent fasting so my breakfast is usually after 12 o’clock.
Lunch – since it is winter time shall we have a warm cozy lunch? 2-3 baked or steamed sweet potatoes or regular potatoes with around 200 grams of asparagus (a whooping 4.3 mg of iron!!! which is almost half the needs for a male and a third of the daily requirements for a woman of menstruating age) . Add in a tablespoon of thyme; just the thyme alone will supply you with 1 whole mg of iron. Serve with a side of veggies of your choice – tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. For a dressing I like blended tofu with a couple of walnuts for omega 3s with zucchini, nutritional yeast for some added B vitamins/biotin, zinc, etc. maybe molasses again and spices. You can check out my dressings and dips recipes.
Drink some tea, green juice or water before Dinner!
Dinner – I personally combine lunch and dinner into one big dinner but of course you can do 3-5 meals a day if that’s what you are used to. Personally I recommend fewer mealtimes which gives the body enough time for digestion and detox instead of constantly having to digest and work hard and constantly having insulin spikes after each snack/meal.
Dinner is half an acorn squash stuffed with millet, wild rice, peas and veggies plus a stew made out of approximately 300 grams of cooked lentils and 200 grams or so of spinach (which will supply you with 5.4 mg of iron!!!) plus carrots, onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and other veggies; add in some mustard seeds, paprika and some other powerful and loaded with nutrients spices.
Depending on your portion sizes this will supply you with around 1500 calories and over 25 mg of non heme iron which is the safe form of iron! This leaves you with some room to add in your favorite snacks, desserts, dressings, condiments and such. We have already met all our nutritional needs all within these 1500 calories so depending on your activity level, size, etc you can add in whatever else you love to this daily menu. Be mindful not to overdo the sodium and fats so that your digestion is happy! You will get around 60 grams of protein and over 150% of all the essential amino acids. This will supply you with all the calcium you need for the day, all the vitamins and all the minerals that your body requires.
11 mg of zinc. (whoop for a bomb immunity)
780 mg of magnesium (which prevents cramps, tension, headaches, constipation)
1300 mcg of folate
Over 100% of your daily needs of all the B vitamins exc B12.
A great omega 3 to omega 6 ratio which leads to no inflammation 🙂
The macronutrients ratio is around 80% carbs , 10% protein and 10% fat. This is the basic ratio that works for me. If you live in a cold climate or you are of postmenopausal age you may want to get a few more fats in your diet but be mindful not to add the inflammatory omega 6s or the saturated fats linked to heart disease. Rather go for flax seeds, a brazil nut, whole coconuts, hemp seeds, etc.